John Peter Altgeld

By Maris Rosenfield, Loyola University Chicago

John Peter Atgeld, Courtesy of Chicago History Museum

In Chicago’s Lincoln Park, there are many monuments dedicated to significant figures in history. Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin and more stand tall within the expansive park. Among these historical giants stands a monument to John Peter Altgeld, a governor of Illinois who fought for justice reform and pushed his progressive views during his term. Altgeld’s legacy is one of restitution, as he has been described as “the most abused and reviled man of his generation” [1]. His monument may sit humbly in Lincoln Park, but his character and his contributions to society make him a quiet but significant influential player in history.

John Peter Altgeld was born in Germany in 1848. His family traveled to the United States, settling in Mansfield, Ohio when John was three months old. His father worked on a farm, upon which John began to help when he was 12. Despite the workload and his illiterate father’s lack of support, John excelled in school. After various moves westward from Ohio, Altgeld settled in Chicago in 1875. He first focused on real estate by buying lots and building office structures. But his interests in politics and law caught up with him, and he was elected governor of Illinois in 1892.

Engraving of Haymarket Affair, originally published in Harper’s Weekly, 1886

Altgeld made several then-controversial decisions during his governorship, but his boldest move was to pardon the three men still serving time for the infamous Haymarket Affair. On May 4, 1886, a bomb went off at a Chicago labor meeting that resulted in seven policemen and four workmen’s death and seventy others injured. Eight men were accused, arrested, and tried—all eight were found guilty and five were hanged. Seven years later, in 1893, Altgeld pardoned the remaining three men.

The trial was riddled with controversy and injustice. In his pardon, Altgeld insisted that “the jury was not chosen by chance as required by law but from a panel collected personally by a special bailiff who boasted that he had called only those men who ‘he believed would hang the defendants’ ”[1]. Overall, in his 18,000 word pardon, Altgeld argued that the trial was unjust and that the evidence presented could not have rightfully convicted the three remaining defendants [2]. When his party reacted negatively to his decision to pardon, Altgeld is to have said:

“No man…has the right to allow his ambition to stand in the way of the performance of a simple act of justice” [3]

The public did not take kindly to Altgeld’s decision. He, along with the three men pardoned, were deemed “anarchists” by the public and press, with various news outlets denouncing Altgeld and attacking the pardon. The Chicago Tribune went so far as to compare pardoning those involved with the Haymarket Affair to the states that seceded from the Union during the Civil War, writing: “The Chicago Tribune, characteristically a pioneer in such matters, led the outcry. ‘Never’ said its editor, ‘did the Governor of an American State—with the exception of those Southern Governors who issued secession proclamations—put his name to so revolutionary and infamous a document.’ On the next day, the editor, noting the widespread denunciation of Altgeld with satisfaction, remarked that ‘the political remains; of Altgeld would draw the salary of governor for forty-two months longer.” [4]

The decision to pardon the three remaining “anarchists” effectively ruined Altgeld’s political career. While he still had speaking engagements, he was not re-elected as governor nor to any other political office. He died in 1902 at the age of 54 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

For someone vilified by the press and general public, it is hard to imagine why he would have a monument in one of the largest parks in the city. After his death, however, the public opinion of Altgeld began to shift. In 1913, more than a decade after his death, $25,000 was appropriated for a monument to Altgeld. With a design competition to choose the sculptor, the city of Chicago that once tried to destroy Altgeld began to make amends. [5]

The final monument, designed by Gutzon Borglum, is made of bronze and shows Altgeld standing with a man, woman and child crouched at his side. The figures around Altgeld’s legs seem to represent that he was an advocate for the working class, as well as his upbringing as such. This symbolism is further realized in the fact the monument itself was dedicated on Labor Day in 1915. Altgeld, while known for his pardoning, was also deeply involved in leading “…progressive reforms such as workplace safety and child labor laws” [5]. To unveil this monument on Labor Day was symbolic considering Altgeld’s work while adding to the acknowledgment of all he did for the working class during his legal and political careers.

Monument of John Peter Altgeld, courtesy of Paul Burley

While this monument may not be the most grand, nor have the most exciting history, it is an excellent example of honoring someone who fought for what he or she thought was right despite popular opinion. It is often the case that monuments have controversy surrounding them, as with the Confederate statues in the South, or even the Balbo Monument here in Chicago. But John Peter Altgeld deserves his place in Lincoln Park, as he represents morality and dignity even when it seems the world is against you. The monument to Altgeld is one of the only remnants of his legacy, which is a shame. He is often left out of the historical narrative, as it has been written:

      “Altgeld in history books is usually one of the unusual statesman of America who was attacked by big corporations and promoted interests of farmers and workers and gave ‘an outstandingly able, courageous, and progressive administration’. Even a book claiming to provide ‘essential facts of her political life’ and insisting that America was different because it was populated by people ‘who believed in restricting oppression rather than submitting to it’ mentions Altgeld only marginally, though it is established fact of history that Altgeld stood for rule of law and sacrificed almost everything for not submitting to injustice and oppression.” [6].

The next time you stroll through Lincoln Park, be sure to stop by and see this shred of the legacy of John Peter Altgeld. His perseverance in the fight against injustice, especially to the working class, makes him worthy of his bronze statue.

 [1]Madison, Charles A. “John Peter Altgeld: Pioneer Progressive.” The Antioch Review 5 (1945): 121–34.

 [2]Parsons, Albert R. Gov. John P. Altgeld’s Pardon of the Anarchists and His Masterly Review of the Haymarket Riot . Chicago, IL: Lucy E. Parsons, 0AD.

[3]Sampson, Robert D. “Governor John Peter Altgeld Pardons the Haymarket Prisoners.” Illinois Labor History Society. Illinois Labor History Society, January 23, 2016.

[4]Wish, Harvey. “Governor Altgeld Pardons the Anarchists.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 31 (1938): 424–48.

[5]District, Chicago Park. “John Peter Altgeld Monument.” Chicago Park District. Accessed November 2020.

[6]Varma, L.B. “History and Historical Fiction: A Study of Howard Fast’s ‘The American’.” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress 48 (1987).

Adelman, William J. “The Haymarket Affair.” Illinois Labor History Society. Accessed November 2020.

Busch, Francis X. “The Haymarket Riot and the Trial of the Anarchists.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 48 (1955): 247–70.

Paretsky, Sara. “John Peter Altgeld.” Statue Stories Chicago : John Peter Altgeld. Accessed November 2020.


Striking Balance; Monument Relevance in Contemporary Times

Following the nationwide protests over the past few years’ racial and police reforms, significant monuments’ relevance and suitability have come into question. Statues and monuments have been toppled and torn down, scrutinized and reviewed, and new ones erected in an attempt to capture our current culture. One might reasonably ask where we draw the line. The surface-level question, “how do we strike the balance between removing disconcerting monuments and preserving a trace of them” comes to the forefront, but there is a deeper underlying cultural-historical balance that needs to be addressed. How do we compromise the commemoration and preservation of our historical lessons with the current public perception of monuments and the present cultural values?

Flyer advertising rally at Haymarket Square
Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

On May 30, 1889, a commemorative nine-foot bronze statue depicting a Chicago policeman was unveiled to honor the policemen’s sacrifice who lost their lives the night of the 1886 Haymarket Affair. What started as a peaceful protest the evening of May 4, 1886, transformed into chaotic violence. Workingmen met for a rally in response to the striking of workers at the McCormick Harvester Works, creating a platform to advocate for labor rights. Although intended as a peaceful demonstration, flyers advertising the gathering were dispersed with the line, “Workingmen arm yourselves and appear in full force” [1]. Towards the end of the Haymarket Square rally, a group of policemen advanced to disperse the crowd and were attacked by an explosive thrown by an unidentified individual. The police opened fire, and chaos ensued; seven police officers, and at least one civilian, were killed, and many more were injured [2].

Three years following the riot, the Haymarket statue of the policeman was commissioned and installed. Funded by the private funds raised by the Union League Club of Chicago, the statue was designed by Frank Batchelder and sculpted by Johannes Gelert [3]. The statue would become the first known monument in the United States honoring police officers [4] and has been moved seven times. Much like the statue’s commemorative inspiration, its history is one of violence.

Haymarket Memorial Statue at Randolph Street and Kennedy Expressway

The original Haymarket statue was placed in the middle of Randolph Street on a marble pedestal engraved with the last command of Captain William Ward delivered in the Haymarket riot. “In the name of the People of Illinois, I command peace” [5]. However, due to vandalism and interference with traffic flow, the statue was moved for the first time to Randolph Street and Ogden Avenue near Union Park. In 1903, the seals located on the statue’s pedestal were stolen and had to be replaced.

On the 41st anniversary of the Haymarket Affair, a streetcar, driven by William Schultz, jumped its tracks and crashed into the statue’s pedestal, causing the figure to fall off the base. The city had the statue restored and moved to Union Park. The statues’ third move was in 1957 due to the Kennedy Expressway’s construction, causing the placement of the statue to be moved to Randolph Street and the Kennedy Expressway. On the 82nd anniversary of the riot, the monument was vandalized with black paint, and soon following this event, the statue was destroyed by an explosive placed in between the legs of the figure in 1969.

The first explosion, which may have been a symbolic reenactment of the original Haymarket protest, was credited towards Weather Underground members, otherwise known as Weatherman, who had had other altercations with the police throughout Chicago [6]. The statue was rebuilt and replaced in May of 1970 but was blown up again in October of the same year. After the second explosion, an individual called several news outlets to declare that the Weatherman did the bombing to “Show our allegiance to our brothers in New York prisons and our black brothers everywhere. This is another phase of our revolution to overthrow our racist and fascist society. Power to the People” [7].

 Despite these attacks on the Haymarket monument, the city continued to take care of the statue. It had the statue repaired again and was moved to the State Street Chicago Police Headquarters Building in 1972 [8]. For over four years, the statue remained there before being relocated to the courtyard at the Chicago Police Training Academy. However, the statue did not stay at this location and was rededicated to its final (current) destination. In 2007 the statue was rededicated at Chicago Police Headquarters and placed on a new pedestal where it remains presently.

As the turbulent history of this one monument demonstrates, no monument is a neutral marker of an event; the interpretation of the artist and intent of the commissioning source, as well as prevailing public sentiment, shape the ultimate product. It would be naïve to claim monuments, such as the Haymarket statue, are only about the “past”; they are politically potent in the present. The concerns and views of the times are continually applied as a litmus test of public acceptability.  It is our responsibility as a society to ensure we balance the historical significance and our shared cultural journey with the intended commemoration and conception. In many cases, this could be accomplished through the introduction of additional contextual information surrounding the monument, providing that bridge between contemporary social norms and mores to the period in which the monument was erected.  The Haymarket monument represents and commemorates the lives of the policemen lost during the Haymarket Affair; perhaps, some of its tumult of being rebuilt, removed, and rededicated could have been avoided if a more balanced presentation had been offered.  The monument does have the benefits of preserving both the art and the historical bearing and should be weighed in a careful manner so that we do not regret the loss of critical journey markers of our spurtive societal growth. This is not to say that some monuments have outlasted their relevance, and need to be updated or replaced.  But given the highly charged political and emotional atmosphere of this year, we need to entertain a more considered approach when we contemplate removing historical monuments.

Isabelle Sapienza, Loyola University Chicago

[1] Flyer advertising Haymarket Rally, Printed at the Office of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, 1886.

[2] Brian Duignon, “Haymarket Affair; Unites States Hstory, 1886”,

[3] Wendy Koenig, “The Police Monument”, Chicago Public Art,

[4] “Haymarket Memorial Statue”,

[5] Ibid.

[6] Richard M. Sommer, “Dyn-o-Mite Fiends; The Weather Underground at Chicago’s Haymarket”, January 10, 2008.

[7] John Kifner, “Ominous Threat in Attacks on the Police,” New York Times, September 6, 1970.

[8] “Haymarket Statue Moved” Chicago Police Star Magazine, March, 1972, retrieved from

Fascist Italy’s Memory Found Refuge in Chicago For 87 Long Years, But Does Columbus’ Dethroning Signify the End?

Written by: Mikey Spehn

 [1] Anti-fascist protesters surrounding the Chicago Balbo Monument in 2017

2020 generated a great discussion of history in the public sphere. Following George Floyd’s murder on May 5 of 2020, Black Lives Matter protests worldwide brought systematic racism to the forefront of public and political debate. Historical monuments in America became a target for removal or defacement on a scale usually only seen in a government’s overthrow. In Grant Park, Chicago’s Christopher Columbus statue was the target of vandalization and a confrontation between protesters and police. On July 24, 2020, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered the statue’s temporary removal [2]. How come the same fate has not transpired to the Balbo monument, only a mile south of the monument? Both are equally problematic.

[4] Chicago Mayor Kelly (left), Italo Balbo (right)   

You might be thinking, what is the Balbo monument? The monument is a column from the ancient Roman town of Ostia “that is approximately 2,000 years old dating from between 117 and 38 BC” [3]. The column was given by Benito Mussolini for the Chicago World’s Fair, 1933 Century of Progress.

Mussolini dedicated the column in honor of Fascist General Italo Balbo’s famous transatlantic flight to Chicago for the fair. The column placed in Burnham Park became known as the Balbo monument in honor of the Italian aviator. While in Chicago, Italo Balbo also unveiled the Christopher Columbus statue that toppled in 2020. Both monuments reflect America’s good relationship with a fascist Italy that was controversial even before WWII. So, how has one monument been removed, and another is outside Soldier Field to this day? What is it about Balbo?

Christopher Columbus’ stone face does not look over Chicago’s landscape anymore. Oddly enough, the base still stands (shown below in image [6]). On the pedestal, there is a commemoration which reads:    


The Grant Park monument was under attack by protesters not because of Balbo, Mussolini, or Fascist Italy. Columbus is the pinnacle of white colonialism and is a person of celebration every October in America. It is difficult not to envision the commemoration of Columbus as state-sponsored encouragement of colonialism and racism. A poll has found that 35% of voters in the 2020 election “favor eliminating Columbus Day as a national holiday” [7]. The story is well known to Americans; the history of Mussolini, Balbo, and fascism is not common knowledge. Fascism’s pedestal remains. Columbus has fallen.   

[5]  Italo Balbo (far left), Adolf Hitler (far right)   

[6] Base of Christopher Columbus statue after its removal 

Does the pedestal with an inscription for Balbo staying in Grant Park indicate that the Balbo monument will not plummet? It seems so. Even the Columbus statue was only ‘temporarily’ removed by Lori Lightfoot. Chicagoans will see if the removal is actually temporary. 

Americans are well aware of systematic racism and the countries past of slavery. But the history of fascism in America is going largely unnoticed. Do Americans know there was an American Nazi Party and that Charles Lindbergh possessed pro-fascist sympathies? The Balbo monument commemorates Italian fascism and an aviator who is known for more than flying. What is it about trans-Atlantic aviators and attraction to fascism? Who’s next, Amelia Earhart? 

[10] Charles Lindbergh (middle) at a rally to keep the U.S. out of WWII                   

Italo Balbo is not just a supporter of fascism too. Loyola University Chicago professor Anthony Cardoza said, “Balbo was one of the most violent warlords of the Fascist movement and had a pivotal role in bringing Benito Mussolini to power” [8]. He was governor of the Italian colony of Libya and “ordered Jews who closed their businesses on the Sabbath to be whipped” [9].

No one doubts that Italo Balbo was a fascist and committed heinous crimes in Italy. So who wants this monument to stay in Chicago? When there were protests to remove the memorial in 2017 (see image [1]), the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans (JCCIA) opposed the removal of the column. Supporters of preserving the monument argue that Balbo was a hero who was not antisemitic and was opposed to Nazi Germany. Historians like Anthony Cardoza disagree. But for the sake of argument, let us say Balbo was these things. That still means he is responsible for persecuting Jewish people [9] and “oversaw the use of saturation bombing, poison gas, and concentration camps against indigenous people in Libya and Ethiopia” [11]. A man pictured having niceties with Adolf Hitler is also pictured greeting Chicago Mayor Kelly in 1933. Chicago symbolically still welcomes Balbo in 2020.

Will the Balbo monument come down? Not anytime soon. In 2017, when protests about Balbo were the highest, protesters could not pressure the city to rename the street: Balbo Drive, which is a lot cheaper than removing a statue. Italian American groups don’t want a Roman column taken down. The city does not want to admit there is a problem or pay for a fix. But, most of all, Americans are not ready to confront the country’s fascist past, or at the very least pay for removal of it. Columbus’s downfall is a step in the right direction and confronts America’s systemic racism. Maybe America can only handle processing one historical sin at a time. No one can find a public monument to Italo Balbo in Italy [8]. Others have confronted Balbo’s historical memory in museums and history books. Chicago celebrates his memory with a street name, a monument, and a pedestal without a man above it. Columbus is no longer on a pedestal. Now it is time to protest the man that was below him. 

Mikey Spehn, Loyola University Chicago

[1] Briscoe, Tony. “Anti-Fascist Protesters Want Balbo Monument in Chicago Removed.” Chicago Tribune, August 24, 2017.

[2] Silber, Christopher. “Columbus Statue’s Turbulent History Included State Funds, Design Feuds, Mussolini Message.” Book Club Chicago, July 24, 2020.

[3] “Balbo Monument.” Chicago Park District, 2014.

[4] Mondadori. Edward Joseph Kelly with Italo Balbo, July 1933, Getty Images, accessed November 22, 2020.


[6] Conkis, James. “Base of Christopher Columbus after its removal on July 24, 2020.” Wikipedia, accessed November 22, 2020.

[7] Sheffield, Carrie. “In heightened cancel culture, most voters still want Columbus Day as national holiday, poll finds.” Just The News, June 26, 2020.

[8] Ackman, Scott, and Schwarz, Christopher. “The (Failed) 1946 Fight to Remove a

Fascist’s Name from a Chicago Street.” Chicago Magazine, July 10, 2008.,down%20his%20plane%20over%20Libya

[9] Sarfatti, Michele. “The Jews in Mussolini’s Italy: from equality to persecution.” Madison, Wis: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 102.

[10] Haberman, Irving. Getty Images.

[11]  Greenfield, John. “Monument to fascist Balbo likely to remain, but aldermen could still rename street.” Chicago Reader, April 23, 2018.

A Wall of Hope: The Berlin Wall in Chicago

Front view of the wall, facing the west. Photo credit to the LSRCC.

Have you been at the Western Brown Line Station and noticed a large slab of concrete standing near the entrance? Well this 3-ton piece of rock was once a part of the Berlin Wall [1]. The city of Chicago was offered a piece of the wall by the Berlin government back in 2008 [2]. This donation symbolizes a gesture of gratitude towards the United States for helping secure the freedom of Berlin and the reunification process. While this gesture of goodwill is much appreciated, some may wonder why it was placed in a CTA station. Like so many other important historical artifacts, perhaps the wall should be kept at a museum or even a public library. However, the city decided to place it in Lincoln Square, a historically German neighborhood. Today, we’ll be looking at the history of Lincoln Square and why the Berlin Wall was placed there.

Lincoln Square saw its first settlers as far back as 1850 [3]. A majority of the settlers were farmers from Switzerland, Germany, and England. They would grow their produce and drive along Little Fort Road (Lincoln Ave.) to the market in Chicago. With Little Fort being a high traffic area, shops began to appear along the road. It wasn’t long until investors started building up the area and promoting it for commercial use. The area soon grew in popularity and saw tremendous growth in the early 1900s [4]. In 1907 the first elevated train made its way to Lincoln Square [5]. With the new train came even more residents and immigrants to the area. Over time, Lincoln Square was transformed from a small farming town to a thriving metropolitan area. And finally, in 1920 the town was annexed and became a part of the city of Chicago [6].

            During the large influx of immigration, numerous German families moved to Lincoln Square. When the town saw an increase in businesses they were primarily German-owned and operated. This encouraged even more German immigrants to move to the area. It is no surprise that German immigrants would want to move where there was a high concentration of German-Americans. Not only were they able to speak their language among their people, but they were able to shop for the items they used back home. Thus, over the years Lincoln Square earned the reputation as a historically German area. Even as the demographics of the area changed and became more diverse, the city promoted an “Old World flavor with European-style shops” [7]. Lastly, there are multiple German-American events that take place in Lincoln Park. The most famous and popular event that takes place is the German-American Oktoberfest. For one weekend in September, Chicagoans and visitors alike gather in Lincoln Square to celebrate everything German. The goal of the festival is to celebrate German heritage and help keep old traditions and culture alive. From this example it is clear to see just how prevalent German-American history and culture remains in Lincoln Square today. So when it came to the Berlin Wall being put on display, it seemed like the natural choice to place it in Lincoln Square.

            While this explains why the wall is in Lincoln Square, it does not answer why it was placed in the CTA. In 2009, the former Alderman of Lincoln Square, Gene Schulter, was interviewed by the McCormick Freedom Museum. The Alderman explained how he wanted it to be put in a prominent area so that it could inspire future generations. Not only would the monument help kids to understand the importance of the Berlin Wall but also teach them why it should never happen again. In the end, the Berlin Wall Monument is “a celebration of the true meaning of unity and liberty” [8]. Also, the citizens of Lincoln Square were thrilled to have the monument installed in the station. When an important monument, such as this one, is placed in a public area, it feels more accessible to the residents. As the Alderman puts it, having the wall in a public space demonstrates the more human side of it and how the Berlin Wall continues to affect people’s lives.

            This is not the only piece of the wall that was placed in a public area. Ever since its fall in 1989, the Berlin government has divided up the pieces to be donated to countries and cities around the world [9]. As of 2020, the Berlin Wall resides in over 40 different countries [10]. These pieces can be found in museums, libraries, businesses, parks, and even schools. Locations include the Berlin Park in Madrid, the Berlin Plaza in Seoul, and the campus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. In this way, the question of why the Berlin Wall is placed on the CTA changes to a question of why not? The Berlin Wall has always been about the people. While it was initially meant to divide the Communist East Berlin from the Democratic West Berlin, it has come to symbolize much more. This symbol of hatred has been re-imagined as its worst fears, a symbol of hope, liberty, and freedom.


A segment of the Berlin Wall in New York on East 53rd Street between 5th and Madison Avenues in Paley Park, later relocated to the lobby of the
building to the park’s right. Gaurav1146, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

To this day, there continue to be celebrations of the collapse of the Berlin Wall and what it means to the city of Chicago. In 2019, the Dank Haus German American Cultural Center hosted a celebration for the 30th Anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s dismantling [11]. The celebration took place at the Berlin Wall Monument for a rededication ceremony. Speakers included Consul General Wolfang Mössinger from Germany and Dank Haus President Dagmar Freiberger. Once the ceremony concluded guests were invited to share their stories about the events leading up to and eventual collapse of the Berlin Wall. This dedication and remembrance demonstrate the significance the wall has today and why it continues to be important to the city of Chicago.

            If you haven’t seen the wall, you can visit it at 4648 N. Western Ave, the Western Brown Line CTA Station in Lincoln Square.

Jen Cimmarusti, Loyola University Chicago

            [1] McCormick Freedom, “Berlin Wall in Chicago,” produced by the McCormick Freedom Museum, November 9, 2009, accessed November 22, 2020.

            [2] B, Mona,“A Piece of Berlin in Lincoln Square,” Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce (LSRCC), May 28, 2012, Accessed November 22, 2020.

            [3] “Cultural Information,” Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, Accessed November 22, 2020.

            [4] Ibid.

            [5] Ibid.

            [6] Ibid.

            [7] Seligman, Amanda, “Lincoln Square,” Encyclopedia of Chicago, Accessed November 22, 2020.

            [8] McCormick Freedom, “Berlin Wall in Chicago.”

            [9] Ziv, Stav, “Where in the World Is the Berlin Wall?” Newsweek, November 11, 2014, Accessed November 22, 2020.

            [10] Hernandez, Alex V, “30th Anniversary of Berlin Wall’s Demise to Be Celebrated At Monument In Lincoln Square,” November 1, 2019, Accessed November 22, 2020.

            [11] Hernandez, Alex V, “30th Anniversary of Berlin Wall’s Demise.”


“About Us.” German-American Fest. Accessed November 23, 2020.

B, Mona.“A Piece of Berlin in Lincoln Square.” Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce. May 28, 2012. Accessed November 22, 2020.

Chandler, Susan. “A German Flavor Lingers in Lincoln Square.” Chicago Tribune, January 23, 2000. Accessed November 22, 2020.

“Cultural Information.” Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce. Accessed November 22, 2020.

Hernandez, Alex V. “30th Anniversary of Berlin Wall’s Demise to Be Celebrated At Monument   In Lincoln Square.” November 1, 2019. Accessed November 22, 2020.

McCormick Freedom. “Berlin Wall in Chicago.” Produced by the McCormick Freedom  Museum. November 9, 2009. Accessed November 22, 2020.

Seligman, Amanda. “Lincoln Square.” Encyclopedia of Chicago, Accessed November 22, 2020.Accessed November 22, 2020.

Ziv, Stav. “Where in the World Is the Berlin Wall?” Newsweek. November 11, 2014. Accessed November 22, 2020.


“Berlin Wall in Lincoln Square.” Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce. Accessed December 6, 2020.

A segment of the Berlin Wall in New York on East 53rd Street between 5th and Madison Avenues in Paley Park, later relocated to the lobby of the building to the park’s right. Gaurav1146, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Accessed October 17, 2021.

Gwendolyn Brooks: Bringing Community Together Before and After Her Death

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) was born in Topeka, Kansas, but spent her formative years in Chicago’s south side in Bronzeville, where a bust of her now resides in Brooks Park (4542 S. Greenwood) [1]. Brooks was the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize with her 1949 poem Annie Allen. In addition to this she was also the first black woman to be a poetry consultant for the Library of Congress [2]. While these accomplishments, and many more, are listed on the Gwendolyn Brooks: Oracle of Bronzeville monument, they are not the most significant. The most striking aspect of the monument is the sense of community that both it and its subject stand for.

Gwendolyn Brooks: Oracle of Bronzeville on a sunny day. (photo: WWP team for Wander Women project) [14]

The Brooks Park monument is a slightly larger than life size bronze casted bust, depicting Brooks from the waist up. There are five stone seats on the ground, that with the bust form a circle. Behind Brooks is a replica of the front porch of her childhood home. These two elements are connected by a stone pathway leading from the porch to the bust of Brooks. The stones have various quotes from Brooks’ Annie Allen engraved in them in order to give “insight to what it’s like to grow up as a little girl in Bronzeville.” [3] Between the stone pathway that leads up to the monument, the circle of seating, the close to life size depiction of Brooks, and the position of the bust close to the ground, the setup seems to invite viewers to have a conversation with Brooks. Having not been to the monument in person and judging the location and atmosphere solely from the images and videos available online, a single word that could be used to describe the area is community.

The Gwendolyn Brooks: Oracle of Bronzeville monument joined the Chicago monument roster in 2018, just eighteen years after the passing of Brooks, and on what would have been her 101st birthday. What sets this apart from the majority of the other monuments in the city is that it is the only monument in a Chicago public space that depicts a woman for her likeness and depicts a woman of color [4]. In fact, The Oracle of Bronzeville is the first Chicago monument to both honor and depict an African American woman [5]. Brooks continues to make history even after her death.

The monument resides in a park that has been renamed by the Chicago Park District as Brooks Park. However, before the placement of the monument there was no physical reminder of Brooks beyond her name on the sign. This was one of the motivations for the monument [6]. It is unlikely that there could be a more appropriate location for this monument in Chicago. The monument was created with an intention of gathering people to celebrate a community leader in her home neighborhood.  

The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame was the main commissioner of and force behind the creation of the statue; however, it was done with the collaboration of the Chicago Park District, the Poetry Foundation, and Brooks Permissions. Another key player in this process was the sculptor, Margot McMahon. McMahon is deeply involved in the Chicago art community. She has various sculptures on display throughout the city and teaches art courses at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, DePaul University, and at an Oak Park school district [7].

The goal of the artist, Margot McMahon, was to “both educate and invite public interaction”, specifically targeting the younger population in an effort to more fully embody the spirit of Brooks [8]. McMahon “wanted to sculpt her listening to us and giving importance to our stories, like she had for many school children.” [9] In addition to creating her own art, Brooks made a point of supporting the youth of Chicago in their exploration of writing. Her support ranged from publishing the students’ works in books to open mics with prize money [10]. McMahon spent two years working closely with Brooks’ daughter, Nora Brooks Blakely, in order to create as accurate a representation of both Brooks’ physical appearance and spirit as possible [11].

The funding for the monument came from a variety of sources, widening the group of stakeholders. A portion of the funding came from the Chicago Park District via a $2,000 grant [12].

Margot McMahon (left) and Nora Brooks Blakely (right) having a conversation with school children. (Photo: Erin Hooley for the Chicago Tribune) [15]

Another source of financial support was found in the public, which resulted in another $5,000 from a GoFundMe page [13]. Turning to the general public for funding greatly increased the number of stakeholders in the equation. There is no immediate negative feedback, nor have there been any reports of vandalism or other destruction. This indicates few disappointments with the project. However, the monument has barely been in place for two years, so time may be a factor. The location of the monument, in the heart of the community where Brooks grew up, also likely plays a significant factor.

Apart from the initial unveiling of the sculpture, there have not been any widely publicized events or community gatherings at the monument. This is likely due to two main factors. The first factor being that the monument is just barely two years old. There simply has not been an ample number of opportunities or events to celebrate in two years. The second reason is that the monument has spent ten months of its two-year existence in a pandemic where traveling and public gatherings have been strongly discouraged. It will be interesting to see how this monument functions within the community over time.

The Bronzeville monument Gwendolyn Brooks: Oracle of Bronzeville aims to both serve as a gathering place for community and inspire creativity. While the design and first two years of the monument’s presence in the community both indicate that it has been successful, it still has lots of time and potential to cultivate community relationships and inspire creativity in many younger generations to come.

Madeleine Lawler, Loyola University Chicago

[1] Poetry Foundation, “Gwendolyn Brooks,” Poetry Foundation, 2017,

[2] Poetry Foundation.

[3] Ravensvoyage Productions, “Gwendolyn Brooks Sculpture,” ed. Rana Segal, Vimeo, April 12, 2018,

[4] Lolly Bowean, “On Gwendolyn Brooks’ Birthday, a Statue of the Powerful Poet Will Be Unveiled on the South Side,” (Chicago Tribune, June 6, 2018),

[5] Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, “CLHOF Installs Sculpture of Gwendolyn Brooks in Brooks Park.,” Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, June 7, 2018,

[6] Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.

[7] “Margot McMahon: About the Artist,” Margot McMahon, accessed November 20, 2020,

[8] “GWENDOLYN BROOKS,” Statues For Equality,

[9] Editor, “Gwendolyn Brooks: The Oracle of Bronzeville,” Chicago Defender, June 13, 2018,

[10] Chicago Defender.

[11] Ravensvoyage Productions.

[12] Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.

[13] “Gwendolyn Brooks Sculpture Portrait, Organized by Donald G. Evans,”, March 10, 2018,

[14] WWP team, Gwendolyn Brooks: The Oracle of BronzevilleWander Women Project, accessed November 20, 2020,

[15] Erin Hooley and Chicago Tribune, Gwendolyn Brooks Statue, June 6, 2018, Chicago Tribune, June 6, 2018,

Blackhawk Statue or Black Hawk Statue? Ownership of a Likeness

by Mary Cole Daulton, Loyola University Chicago

Blackhawks Logo or Monument to Chief Blackhawk? [1]

Around the country, monuments have come into sharp focus in recent years due to a shifting ideology on memory and history. The gender gap and racial gap have become an important part of the overall monument discussion. In the Near West Side neighborhood of Chicago, there stands a monument to a 19th century Native American war chief. Seemingly, this representation of an important leader to a minority group should be a good thing. But this isn’t a monument to a noble Sauk leader – instead, this likeness is used to represent the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team. How, then, do we view the legacy of Chief Black Hawk? How can a monument to a man not be for the man himself? Ultimately, who owns his narrative – his tribe or the hockey team? 

The 75th Anniversary Monument [2]  
Detail of hockey players emerging from the marble [3]

The monument’s inception was to honor a long history of hockey in the city of Chicago. It was erected in October of 2000 to commemorate the 75th anniversary season of the Blackhawks hockey club [4]. Erik Blome, a Chicago native, was commissioned by the team to create the monument of the Chicago Blackhawks logo, colloquially known as the “Indian head” and also acknowledged to represent Chief Black Hawk [5]. The intention of the monument is not related to the Native American profile that towers over the bronze hockey player. But that alone requires answering: why is it so easy to overlook the part of the monument that depicts a real, historic Native American chief? Because to most people, it is merely a hockey logo. 

When discussing the logo, many believe the Blackhawks usage has always been respectful, while other sport teams have failed in that regard. In a 2014 article hailing the logo’s unique nature, the author wrote, “The Blackhawks have never indulged in the kind of cartoonish portrayal of Native Americans we’ve seen in other sports” [6]. The Blackhawks have used an iteration of this logo since their inception in 1926, and it has always featured a drawing or illustration of Chief Black Hawk’s profile. Where is the line between a caricature and a cartoon? 

Older iterations of the logo show questionable levels of respect [7]

The hockey club boasts that its logo is often voted “the best logo in the history of professional sports” [8]. In a 2008 poll that voted the Blackhawks logo as the “best”, Ryan Kennedy wrote the team’s logo “represents everything this competition is about. It is instantly recognizable, has universal appeal and has inspired countless imitations. The logo itself has an unwavering sense of pride and duty to it and looks great on a jersey or a hat. It is truly one of the classics in all of sport” [9]. At no point does Kennedy acknowledge the logo is special because of its connection to Chief Black Hawk; his primary concern was instant recognition and the selling of merchandise.

Many believe the hockey team has not received as much pressure or vitriol due to the respect they show their logo and active participation with Native Americans in Illinois. However, the schism in the Native American community regarding the hockey club’s logo is well documented. Some believe it is an opportunity to educate the public, while others believe there can be no exemption for a racially motivated logo regardless of how team handles its public outreach. Studies have shown the ill-effects that Native American mascots and logos can have on indigenous people. Dr. Arianne Eason of UC Berkeley wrote, “Regardless of what sports fans claim, the outcomes are clear, Native mascots harm and offend Native people, especially highly identified Native people” [10]. Heather Miller, the executive director of the American Indian Center in Chicago and a member of the Wyandotte Nation, is actively against any sports team using Native American names and imagery. The AIC cut ties with the Blackhawks a few years ago, and Miller does not anticipate a reconciliation anytime soon. Miller believes it is entirely hypocritical because as teams were being named after Native American legends, Native American people were massively suffering, on reservations or in cities, even Chicago. She continued, “Our children were being systematically removed from reservations and forced into boarding schools, forced to cut their hair, forced to not learn their language or speak their language, so our culture was being erased. And yet their sports teams and their universities were putting these depictions and images of us in place, saying that this was how we behaved.” [11]. Further, the National Congress of American Indians has spoken about the psychological consequences of using native mascots. They clearly state that the intolerance born in “Indian” sports mascots creates alarmingly high rates of hate crimes against native people. “Specifically, rather than honoring Native peoples, these caricatures and stereotypes are harmful, perpetuate negative stereotypes of America’s first peoples, and contribute to a disregard for the personhood of Native peoples.” [12]. While the NCAI has not spoken for or against the Blackhawks hockey team, they do reference the National Hockey League in their policy on “Professional Sports and Harmful Mascots” [13].

In 2010, Joe Podlasek gave an interview on the topic of the Blackhawks logo. Podlasek is the CEO of Trickster Cultural Center and has worked with the Blackhawks organization in the past [14]. In the center of the locker room, there is a large rug with the logo on it that superstition says players are not allowed to step on. Some call this superstition “respecting the logo”. Podlasek said, “For us, that’s one of our grandfathers. Would you do that with your grandfather’s picture? Take it and throw it on a rug? Walk on it and dance on it?” [15].

Merchandise supporting the team depicts the Chief Black Hawk profile, featuring a bathmat from Rally House [16]  
A Chief Black Hawk tattoo in memorial to the fan’s father [17]

The organization actively celebrates Native American Awareness month on social media, but the awareness and promotion do not solve the issue of their branding and how it devalues Chief Black Hawk. Podlasek specifically informed the organization that they needed to do a better job educating their fans about how disrespectful wearing Native American traditional headdresses to the games was [18]. This summer, the team took the positive step of banning costume headdresses from team-sanctioned events, including home games. The statement put out by the organization specifically mentions “conversations with our Native American partners”, and how the headdresses “are sacred, traditionally reserved for leaders who have earned a place of great respect in their Tribe and should not be generalized or used as a costume or for everyday wear” [19]. While this is one step in the right direction, the thoughts and meaning behind it show incredible promise. The same mentality of establishing respect needs to now be applied to their logo. 

In July of 2020, amid racial equality demonstrations after the murder of George Floyd, many called on the hockey club again to commit to changing its name. The Blackhawks responded by defending their logo and issuing the following official statement:

The Chicago Blackhawks name and logo symbolizes an important and historic person, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation, whose leadership and life has inspired generations of Native Americans, veterans and the public. We celebrate Black Hawk’s legacy by offering ongoing reverent examples of Native American culture, traditions and contributions, providing a platform for genuine dialogue with local and national Native American groups [20].

In response, on Columbus Day, or Indigenous Peoples Day, the Blackhawk statue was vandalized. Red paint was thrown on the logo and graffiti on the concrete around the statue read, “Land Back”, and “take your trash with you”. The first photos of the vandalism were posted on Twitter by an account called @zhigaagoong [21], which is a Native American phrase for the land of Chicago. The statue of the logo, the monument to Chief Black Hawk, was covered with a tarp, fenced for safety, and subsequently sent for repairs [22]. 

The Blackhawks 75th Anniversary Monument was doused in red paint in a protest against racist monuments [23]  
The statue covered by a tarp [24]

The team plans to keep the name because it believes the name honors Chief Black Hawk. How can a commercialized logo represent a real-life man? With every t-shirt, novelty license plate, or dog leash manufactured, the story of Chief Black Hawk gets smaller and the narrative of Chief Black Hawk continues to be taken away from his tribe and his people. The name of the team may have been intended to honor Chief Black Hawk, but once his likeness was commercialized, the amount of respect diminishes. As people walk by the Blackhawks statue outside the United Center, they don’t see a monument to Sauk hero. They see a statue to a team they paid money to see play a game. The profile of Chief Black Hawk doesn’t represent the Sauk tribe anymore. It’s permanently attached to a hockey team with its own unique story. Commercializing a historic figure’s memory has devalued the lessons and the history surrounding Chief Black Hawk. While once an honorary recognition, the business using Chief Black Hawk’s name and likeness has usurped his narrative that rightly belongs to the Native American people.

Mary Cole D

[1] Photo licensing purchased by Mary Cole Daulton, taken by Jim Roberts, December 22, 2018.

[2] Photo licensing purchased by Mary Cole Daulton, taken by Jim Roberts, December 22, 2018.

[3] Photo credit to Erik Blome,

[4] “Chicago Blackhawks 75th Anniversary Commemorative Monument,” Chicago Public Art, accessed November 16, 2020,

[5] Erik Blome, “Chicago Blackhawks 75th Anniversary Monument,” Erik Blome–Sculptor, accessed November 16, 2020,

[6] Adam Proteau, “NFL’s ‘Redskins’ days are numbered – are the NHL’s Blackhawks next?,” SI: The Hockey News, June 18, 2014,

[7] Copyright “History Of The Chicago Blackhawks”, accessed November 16, 2020,

[8] Brad Boron/Chicago Blackhawks, “THN ranks Blackhawks logo tops in the NHL,”, August 24, 2014,

[9] Chicago Blackhawks Press Release/Chicago Blackhawks, “Blackhawks Logo Voted #1 in NHL,”, accessed November 16, 2020,

[10] “Offensive to Native Americans, Racist Mascots Have No Place in Sports,” Cision: PR Newswire, accessed November 16, 2020,

[11] Scott Powers, “Is it time for the Chicago Blackhawks to drop their Native American logo?,” The Athletic, June 25, 2020,

[12] “Ending the Era of Harmful ‘Indian’ Mascots,” NCAI Policy Research Center, accessed November 23, 2020,

[13] National Congress of American Indians, “Ending the Legacy of Racism in Sports & The Era of Harmful ‘Indian’ Sports Mascots,” October 2013,

[14] Scott Powers, “Is it time for the Chicago Blackhawks to drop their Native American logo?,” The Athletic, June 25, 2020,

[15] “Native-Americans weigh in on “Blackhawks” name,” ABC7, accessed November 16, 2020,

[16] “Indoor Rug” sold at Rally House, a merchandise partner with the Chicago Blackhawks,×45-all-star-interior-rug-1654475.

[17] Copyright Getty Images, taken by Scott Olson, 2015,

[18] Scott Powers, “Is it time for the Chicago Blackhawks to drop their Native American logo?,” The Athletic, June 25, 2020,

[19] Chicago Blackhawks/, “A Note to Our Blackhawks Community,”, accessed November 23, 2020,

[20] Chicago Blackhawks/, “STATEMENT: Blackhawks Statement on Name and Logo,”, accessed November 16, 2020,

[21] “Blackhawks Statue Outside of United Center Vandalized Over Weekend, Team Says,” NBC Chicago, accessed November 16, 2020,

[22] NBC Chicago, “Blackhawks Statue”.

[23] Copyright Twitter user @zhigaagoong,

[24] “Blackhawks Statue Outside of United Center Vandalized Over Weekend, Team Says,” NBC Chicago, accessed November 16, 2020,

Power to the People – Acts of Violence and Vandalism Against the Haymarket Memorial Police Statue

On May 4, 1886, several activists and protestors congregated in Haymarket Square on Des Plaines Street in downtown Chicago to stage a labor demonstration demanding an eight-hour workday. Tensions were high, as the police had killed one civilian worker and injured several more the previous day. As the crowd grew larger, enticed by the fiery orators among the crowd, the police began to approach the crowd in column formation, numbering 175 officers in total. As the police neared the crowd, an unidentified assailant threw a bomb into the police ranks, consequently starting a riot between the police and protestors [1]. The incident, known as the Chicago Haymarket Riot, resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and four civilians, along with many more injured and several hundred protestors arrested. Eight of the arrested civilians were charged as “anarchists” and sentenced to death. Three years later the city dedicated a monument to commemorate the role of the police in keeping the peace at the riot. In over a century since the incident, both the Haymarket Riot and the Police Memorial Statue to commemorate the incident have been maintained visible significance on the issues of free speech, the right of public assembly, organized labor, the role law enforcement, and justice [2].

A widely used depiction of the explosion that instigated the Haymarket Riot. Illustration is from a book published by the CPD Captain during the riot, Michael Schaak. (Michael Schaack, “Haymarket Bombing,” 1889, Anarchy and Anarchists).

On May 30, 1889, the city of Chicago unveiled the Haymarket Riot Police Memorial Statue to commemorate the role of the police in the tragic events three years prior. Commissioned by a group of business and civic leaders through private investment funds from

Workers posing with the Haymarket Police Statue after installation in Haymarket Square, May 1889 (“The Birth of a Monument,” 2020,

the Union League of Chicago, the revealing ceremony in Haymarket Square was led by one Frank Degan, the son of officer Mathias Degan, who was one of the seven officers killed during the riot [3]. The fact that this statue was commissioned by city officialdom and unveiled by police supporters shows that the city and the police wanted to control public memory of this historical event, portraying the police as heroes and the working-class crowd as a mob filled with anarchists. In fact, the nine-foot bronze statue, designed by Frank Batchelder and sculpted by Johannes Gilbert, was the first known statue in the United States to honor police [4]. Since the statue’s completion it has been moved seven times and often subject to repairs or rebuilds due to continued vandalism. This fact reinforces the controversy that surrounds the statue, including the memory of the incident itself. To some, the Haymarket Police Memorial Statue demonstrates the crucial role of the police, while to others it represents the powerful city leaders using force to oppress the working class [5].

In July 1900, the statue was moved from Haymarket Square to the intersection of Randolph and Ogden, near Union Park due to repeated vandalism. The statue remained in this spot until May 4, 1927, when it was hit and dislodged by an errant streetcar. The operator claimed failed breaks were at fault but was later heard saying he was “sick of seeing that policeman with his arm raised.” [6]. After repairs that took until early 1928, the statue moved to its third location, this time in Union Park. Remaining at this location until June 2, 1957, it continued to suffer from vandals, though nothing quite as bad as what it suffered at the second or fourth locations [7].

The statue’s fourth location, at the intersection of Randolph Street and the Kennedy Expressway, was a scene of continued attempts to destroy or vandalize the statue. Installed on June 2, 1957 only two hundred feet from the scene of the incident, the statue remained unperturbed aside from the occasional

The rebuilt statue being installed once again at the Randolph & Kennedy location on May 4, 1970 (“Repaired Haymarket Statue,” 2020,

act of vandalism for over a decade. On May 4, 1968, the 82nd anniversary of the incident, the statue was covered in black paint after yet another confrontation between police and Vietnam protestors [8]. On October 6, 1969, a bomb was detonated between the legs of the statue, blowing it off the pedestal. After being rebuilt and unveiled on the at the same location on May 4, 1970, the statue was bombed yet again on October 5, 1970. The bombing was claimed by an activist group called The Weatherman to “show our allegiance to our brothers in New York prisons and our black brothers everywhere…to overthrow our racist and fascist society. Power to the People.” [9]. Once again, we see contention between working class civilians and the city’s police or leadership, represented here by the battle over the statue.

After being rebuilt yet again, the statue was relocated to the State Street Chicago Police Department headquarters on February 5, 1972, where it remained until October 5, 1976. The statues sixth location was the CPD training academy, where it was located from October 1976 until June 1, 2007 [10]. Both locations exposed the statue to further vandalism, but nothing that approached the violence or statement of the bombings at the Randolph and Kennedy location. The statues seventh and current location is the CPD headquarters on Michigan Avenue. The rededication ceremony was officiated by one Geraldine Docka, the great-granddaughter of the same Mathias Degan who was killed in the Haymarket Riot [11]. This ceremony represents continued effort of the city officialdom to promote the need for police while simultaneously silencing the voices of the working-class and silencing this dark spot on the city’s history [12].

The city’s need to control the fate of the statue, and therefore the narrative of this history, has led to continual protests and vandalism against the Haymarket Police Memorial and what it stands for. Illinois’ Labor Society President Leslie Orear has said, “workers claim the event was a ‘police riot’…’nobody did a damn thing until the police arrived.’ The police story is that they saved the city from anarchist terrorism.” [13]. Orear has additionally claimed that the feelings toward the police memorial statue is not meant to dishonor police, but he can see how they may be sensitive to the sentiment [14]. These issues concerning this statue are still prevalent today. With the incidents of police brutality and killings of unarmed black civilians, many still see the CPD, and police departments across the nation, as oppressive institutions. Oppressive not only regarding class, but race and even gender as well. Perhaps focusing on the Haymarket Riot and historical memory surrounding the event, we can gain an understanding of the deeper meaning of the events that have created the rift between the police and many groups and individuals in our country.

Nick Spoerke, Loyola University Chicago

[1] – “The Haymarket Memorial.” Last modified 2020.

[2] – “The Haymarket Memorial.”

[3] – Ray Johnson. “The Chicago Haymarket Riot Police Memorial Statue – A Tumultuous History of its Own.” Last modified May 4, 2017.

“Haymarket Memorial Statue.” Last modified 2020.

[4] – “Haymarket Memorial Statue.”

[5] – Johnson.

[6] – “Haymarket Memorial Statue.”

[7] – “Haymarket Memorial Statue.”

[8] – “Haymarket Memorial Statue.”

[9] – “Haymarket Memorial Statue.”

[10] – “Haymarket Memorial Statue.”

[11] – “Haymarket Memorial Statue.”

[12] – Aimee Levitt. “Remembering the Haymarket Affair After the City’s Attempts to Forget It.” May 1, 2018.

[13] – Levitt.

[14] – Levitt.

The Ugly Duckling Shines in Lincoln Park: The Rich Meaning of the Hans Christian Andersen Monument in Chicago

From The Little Mermaid to The Ugly Duckling, Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tales are known high and low around the world. His stories have graced pages of books, poems, and art as well as the big screen with movies, TV shows, and even plays and Broadway musicals. The Hans Christian Andersen monument located in Lincoln Park in Chicago, Illinois pays homage to the innovative writer from Denmark [1]. However, the famed Danish man known by many did not start out as a lovely swan. Much like his story The Ugly Duckling, Hans Christian Andersen had to go through a rough life to get to the fame and glory he has now that inspired a group of Danish immigrants to create a monument to represent their country and heritage.

Thora Hallager, “Hans Christian Andersen,” October 1869.

Hans Christian Andersen was born on April 2, 1805 in Odense, Denmark to a poor shoemaker and a washerwoman [2]. The creator and storyteller inside Hans came out at an early age as he was known to tell stories to other children in elementary school [3]. However, Hans had family issues that made him scared to dive completely into his mind of wonder and fantasy. His grandfather, an actor, had gone mad, and Hans was waiting for his time to come where he too would run around the streets in flowers singing at the top of his lungs [4]. His mother, seeing Hans worried and anxious, decided to try to cure him of his worries. She did everything from taking him to a religious well to bringing him to a wise woman who made him wear a bag around his neck “containing some churchyard earth and a mole’s heart” [5]. After his father had died, his step-father, a dull grey man compared to the bright book-loving man his father was, found no use for Hans as he was becoming more in his head as he grew older [6]. Luckily for Hans, a fortune-teller came by the family’s house and read his fortune as: “‘Something great and fine in the world. The time will come when all Odense will be illuminated for him’” [7]. After hearing this, at the ripe age of fourteen, Hans set off to Copenhagen to try to make a mark on the world with his creativity and imagination [8].

While in Copenhagen, Hans tried his luck at almost anything that had to do with the arts. It wasn’t until he met “Jonas Collin, a benevolent Director of the Royal Theatre and one of the King’s Councillors” that Hans’ life in Copenhagen started to look up [9]. Collin had received a grant from the king to send Hans to “the Latin School at Slagelse under Simon Meisling” [10]. At school, Hans learned Latin, German, and French and continuously read in Danish, German, French, and even some English [11]. Hans also continued to write and create stories in his head at school.

After he graduated school, Hans went back to Collins’ family, but ended up traveling around Europe after the king granted him a traveling stipend [12]. When he returned to Denmark, Hans questioned whether he should continue writing or stop for a normal job that would bring him a consistent living. Collins encouraged Hans to continue writing, and after two years, he published his first “Fairy Stories,” a pamphlet containing four stories that would eventually be the first stepping stone on his path to greatness [13]. Hans’ writing only continued from the first pamphlet as his stories exploded onto the writing scene. Eventually, after his famous works of today like The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Nightingale, and more were published, the king of Denmark gave Hans a fixed income for his contribution to the writing world in the name of Denmark [14]. In his old age, Hans returned to Odense to find that the town had transformed into a beacon for him, just as the fortune-teller had predicted when he was fourteen [15]. Finally, the ugly duckling had become the swan he was destined to be.

The monument in Lincoln Park pays homage to Hans and represents more than just his literary mark on the world. After the American Civil War, monuments and statues of influential people were being put up in remembrance and honor of heritage [16]. Immigrants started doing the same as they wanted to remember their homeland and heritage that they had left behind [17]. Danish immigrants were no exception to this, especially as a huge influx of Danish Americans came to Chicago in 1891 [18].

While the Danish immigrants started thinking about ideas for the monument’s specifics, they knew they wanted to place the monument in one of Chicago’s beautiful parks as they had a desire to “give a good account of the culture of their homeland in America” [19]. Hans Christian Andersen was, of course, the first idea that popped into the immigrants’ heads as someone to represent their homeland of Denmark. Not only was Hans an influential writer in Europe, but also in America as his stories had spread across miles of the Atlantic Ocean to grace American homes and libraries [20]. He was the perfect person to showcase and honor Danish heritage and culture, but with the overwhelming certainty that the immigrants, and future immigrants, would keep their culture in America as well as America accepting their culture in return.

In 1981, a committee named “The Hans Christian Andersen Monument Association” was created and set forth on creating the monument that would be a symbol of Danish pride [21]. The committee chose Johannes Gelert, a sculptor who, like Andersen, moved to Copenhagen around the age of fourteen, as the artist for the monument [22]. However, a large problem arose with the monument. As one can expect, an eight foot tall bronze statue on a large granite pedestal is no cheap endeavor [23]. The committee had been getting small donations from Danish circles all across America and even small school-aged children donated with the change they had, but it was not enough and the monument was postponed indefinitely [24]. This did not stop the Danish-American community in Chicago from giving up. New ways to get money for the monument, like bazaars and concerts and new subscription lists, were thought of and executed ending in a possible date for the monument to be announced [25].

Finally, on September 26, 1896, the Hans Christian Andersen monument in Lincoln Park was unveiled to the public [26]. The statue of Hans is made out of bronze, and is a beautiful piece of art. Hans is sitting on a tree stump with a book on his lap. His finger is tucked inside it to hold his place as he looks out into the park. Beside him is a majestic swan. The statue sits atop a large granite pedestal that bears the letters “HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN.”

Wikimedia Commons. Accessed November 15, 2020.

The monument is an impressive and beautiful reminder to the Danish-American community in Chicago that they did not leave their heritage in Denmark when they left for a new life in America. It was the opposite in fact. Similar to a lot of monuments, this one stands as a physical reminder of something that cannot be seen outright. Sure heritage and culture can be seen from the food that is on the dinner table or the traditions families follow each year, but heritage and culture are like love, sometimes we need a physical reminder that we have it, and it cannot be taken from us. The Hans Christian Andersen monument stands as a beacon for current and new Danish-Americans that they did not leave anything but a country behind. Their costumes, traditions, and way of life are always ingrained in their bodies and minds. Similar to Hans’ story of the ugly duckling, the Danish immigrants felt as if they were an ugly duckling in the country of America in the late 1890s, but it was the opposite. They had finally become the beautiful swan they were meant to be in a new land that promised them a new and better life. The monument reminds them every day that they are not the ugly duckling, they are just like their Danish national treasure who they memorialized in bronze, a swan who needed to break free and soar to reach the place where their inner beauty, imagination, and happiness can shine.

Keeley Shoudel, Loyola University Chicago

[1] Elizabeth Belloc. “Hans Christian Andersen.” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 41, no. 161 (1952): 55.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 56.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 57.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 58.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 60.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Larsen, Birgit F. “Hans Christian Andersen’s Statue In Lincoln Park, Chicago.” The Bridge 22, no. 2 (1998): 84.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[29] Ibid., 85.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., 86.

[23] “Hans Christian Andersen Monument.” Chicago Park District. Accessed November 15, 2020.

[24] Larsen, “Hans Christian Andersen’s Statue In Lincoln Park, Chicago,” 88.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid., 89.